The United Kingdom: Israel


Suggested Readings:  1 Samuel 8, 1 Samuel 10:17-24, 1 Samuel 11:12-15, 1 Samuel 15:1-11, 1 Samuel 16:14-23, 1 Samuel 17:32-51a, 1 Samuel 18:6-9, 1 Samuel 19:1-17, 2 Samuel 2:1-7, 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25, 1 Kings 3, 1 Kings 9:1-9 

         The Books of 1 and 2 Samuel tell the story of Samuel, Saul and David. 1 and 2 Kings tell the story of Solomon and the kings of Israel who followed him.

         Samuel and his sons were the last judges of Israel. When Samuel’s sons proved to be dishonest and greedy, the people came to Samuel and demanded that he appoint a king to rule over them. Samuel told the people that God is the only king they need, and that a human king would treat them poorly. Still, they persisted, and God and Samuel relented (1 Samuel 8). God chose Saul to be king, a man who stood “head and shoulders above all the crowd” (1 Samuel 10:23), and Samuel anointed him (1 Samuel 9:14-10:1). But Saul disobeyed God by refusing to enact the ban when he defeated Amalek, and God rejected him (1 Samuel 15:4-9). God sent Samuel to find and anoint a new king, David, the son of Jesse (1 Samuel 16:1-13). David joined Saul’s court and won his favor by playing music that soothed his anguished soul and by defeating the Philistine hero, Goliath (1 Samuel 17). David even married Saul’s daughter, Michal, and was best friends with Saul’s son, Jonathan. However, Saul became jealous when he heard the people compare him unfavorably to David. “Saul has slain his thousands,” they sang, “and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). Saul plotted to kill David. David fled for his life, with Saul in pursuit. When Saul died fighting Israel’s old enemy, the Philistines, David was named king of Judah in the south. Saul’s son, Ishbaal, ruled Israel in the north. Fighting broke out between the south and north. Ishbaal was murdered by his own people and, by mutual agreement of north and south, David was named monarch of a united kingdom (2 Samuel 5:1-5).

         David became the greatest king in the history of Israel. He was successful in returning to Jerusalem the Ark of the Covenant, which had been captured by the Philistines (2 Samuel 6), in defeating Israel’s enemies, and in expanding the borders of and bringing prosperity to his kingdom. He captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and made it his capital. This was significant for national unity, since Jerusalem sat on the border between north and south, yet belonged to neither. David wanted to build a temple for God, but through the prophet Nathan, the Lord let it be known that He desired no temple (2 Samuel 7:1-7).

         David overcame many difficulties, not the least of which were his own sins. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, and arranged for the murder of her husband (2 Samuel 11:1-12:25). He survived the rebellion of his son, Absalom (2 Samuel 15-18), and the attempt by another son, Adonijah, to seize the throne while he still lived (1 Kings 1). Before he died, David advised his son, Solomon, whom he had chosen to be king after him, to remain faithful to God, “following his ways and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees as they are written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in whatever you do” (1 Kings 2:3). Though far from perfect, David never wavered from his faith and devotion to the God of Israel. God blessed him with the promise of an eternal kingship (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

         As king, Solomon became famous for his wisdom (1 Kings 3), for Israel’s prosperity under his reign, and for building the Temple, where the people worshipped God (1 Kings 5-6). At Gibeon, the Lord came to Solomon in a dream and offered him anything he asked. Solomon asked for wisdom to rule his people. Because he asked for wisdom, and not for wealth, or victory over enemies, or a long life, God promised him all of these (1 Kings 3:4-15). The most famous example of Solomon’s wisdom is his judgment over the case of two mothers, one of whose infant son had died. They came to the king both claiming to be the mother of the surviving son. Solomon ordered that the boy be cut in two, with each woman receiving half. The true mother, concerned only for the life of her child, begged that the boy be given to the other, while her rival agreed with the plan of splitting the child in two! Solomon knew, then, who was the true mother, and he restored the boy to her arms (1 Kings 3:16-28). Solomon’s reputation for wisdom was so renowned that no less than four of the seven biblical books of Wisdom literature are attributed to him. Solomon’s greatest achievement, however, was the building of the Temple. What God had denied David, He granted Solomon, and Solomon honored God’s favor with a magnificent Temple that centralized worship for the nation and that stood for four centuries (1 Kings 5:15-6:38).

         Sadly, Solomon’s reign took a turn toward tyranny. He supported his lavish lifestyle with taxes and forced labor, and assumed for himself rights that were formerly reserved for the individual tribes, even dividing their traditional territories. Influenced by his foreign wives, Solomon turned from the Lord and worshipped other gods. Because of this sin, God turned the hearts of Solomon’s people against him (2 Kings 11). Jeroboam, who was foreman over Solomon’s laborers, was inspired by the prophet Ahijah to organize a conspiracy to become king of the ten northern tribes. When this was discovered, he fled to Egypt, but returned on news of Solomon’s death. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and successor, was confronted by the northern tribes at Shechem, but remained resolute in his intention to keep his father’s unjust practices, vowing to be even more ruthless than Solomon. The northern tribes revolted and declared Jeroboam their king, while Rehoboam fled back to Jerusalem. The united kingdom was torn in two.

Be Christ for all.  Bring Christ to all.  See Christ in all.


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